I’m so thrilled to be back with a new “parents who inspires” post! You know how I’ve shared that while I’ve lost some friendships since starting this blog, I’ve also gained some new, amazing relationships? Well, Leigh Ann is someone I met through anti-racist work and I feel beyond fortunate to now consider her part of my community.
Leigh Ann is one of the fiercest, anti-racist white people I know and that is not hyperbole. She is unwavering in her convictions and incorporates activism into the framework of her family, religious and personal life. Leigh Ann is an organizer, a facilitator, an educator and truly an all around kick-ass human being. I’m really excited for y’all to get to know her below!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is Leigh Ann Luscan and I am a homeschooling mom of two, a waitress, and a prospective seminary student. Our little family is made up of myself; my funny and patient and extremely supportive spouse, Dave; our 9 year-old daughter Rowan who has an innate sense of justice and compassion towards which I strive; our 4 year-old son Simon who is sensitive and wild; and our dog Penny who loves to nap and snuggle. We live in Sandy Springs, Georgia, a suburb just north of Atlanta, since June, when we moved here from Richmond, Virginia.
As a parent, what’s your favorite part about living in your city?
As a parent, my favorite part of living in this city is playing outside. There are tons of kids in our very diverse neighborhood who we get to play with every day. There are parks and trails and the Chattahoochee River and we seldom find ourselves bored.
In what ways are you civically engaged with your local or national community, either professionally, personally or both?
The majority of my civic engagement happens through my faith, Unitarian Universalism, sometimes through my church, UU of Metro Atlanta North (UUMAN, pronounced affectionately like Human) but also on a larger scale, as there are many influential UU’s around the country doing amazing work.
At UUMAN, I am leading the coordinating committee as a hosting congregation with Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb, which serves families dealing with situational homelessness. We welcome up to four families at a time and they make our church their home for a week at a time, roughly every 13 weeks. Our partners in this service are the Roswell Community Masjid.
I am working with the chair of the Social Justice committee at UUMAN to bring a workshop for which I am trained to be a facilitator called Living the Pledge. The workshop began at my previous congregation, First UU Church of Richmond, and is an anti-racism class built on participants having signed the Richmond Pledge to End Racism (based on the famous Birmingham Pledge.)
I am also certified as an OWL (Our Whole Lives) facilitator and have led this class in Richmond and here in Atlanta with kids approaching middle school and also with First graders. This is a lifespan human sexuality course developed by Unitarian Universalists in partnership with the United Church of Christ. It is a fantastic, holistic approach that provides developmentally appropriate and accurate information on a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality.
On a broader scale, I am a subscriber of Safety Pin Box, one of whose founders is Leslie Mac, a prominent UU and activist/organizer, founder of the Ferguson Response Network. Safety Pin Box is a monthly subscription service designed to help white people who are striving to be better and more effective allies in the fight for racial justice, while shifting resources towards Black women and femmes. I am one of the moderators for the group’s Facebook page, where I and other subscribers work and collaborate on monthly tasks like Understanding and Documenting Violence Against Black Trans People.
On a super-local level, my civic engagement looks like educating myself and my children on what it means to be white, the privileges we have and how to use them in the dismantling of white supremacy. This is the foundation of our homeschooling experience and they have been attending rallies, protests, marches, and organizing meetings since before they were born.
My own continuing education is enhanced by courses like Raising an Advocate and Intersectional Feminism 101, both by Danielle Slaughter of Mamademics. I am supported by groups like the Race-Conscious Parenting Collective at Charis Books and More. The kids and I are learning together what it means to be involved and vocal in politics at a state and city level.
What’s your favorite part of your civic engagement activities?
I think my favorite part is that I am shedding the parts of myself that remained oblivious to the suffering of others in which I am complicit. This frequently painful process has allowed me to become more fully human and connect with other people in a way I hadn’t been able to before. I have become a better listener, my values have been distilled, and I am getting more comfortable just being really uncomfortable, which is where the growth happens. Shedding the parts of myself that were so comfortably unaware has granted me friendships with people I would not have known how to relate to before. My world is bigger and more beautiful now and also, at times, more painful than I think I can bear. But then I do, because all of these other beautiful people bear it and so much worse and have been for so long.
What inspires you to engage in these activities?
My unofficial mentor asked me a similar question years ago, “Why do you want to do this work?” And I said, “For my kids.” Which is maybe a weird answer in that they’re white and financially comfortable and will probably have access to things like education and enough food and presumed innocence. So they’d more than likely be just fine if I never did any kind of activism. But what I really meant was that I don’t want an empty shell of “success” for them; a shell that can only remain intact as long as other people stay oppressed and that oppression goes ignored by my kids. I don’t want them to have opportunities that are only available because they are being denied to others. I want for them to live a life that’s real, not built on lies and the pain of others. I know that’s a lot to ask for and may not happen in their lifetime, but it is what keeps me on this path.
Any words of wisdom for parents wanting to create space for civic engagement in their own busy lives?
My advice for parents wanting to create space for civic engagement in their own busy lives is that it takes more than making space and time. In my experience, it has taken a complete shift in my heart and my understanding of the world and my place in it. It is messy and painful and unclear.
If activism is just one more thing on our To-Do lists, I don’t imagine it will be sustainable for the long-run. The things that are helping me to continue making that shift are: listening to the voices of people of color and not getting defensive or squirmy when the actions of white people, mine personally or more generally, are criticized. Self-education and reflection is really crucial. Understanding our own privilege and biases better will help us make better choices.
The Lemonade Syllabus and the Black Lives Matter Syllabus are great resources for learning more. I highly recommend subscribing to Safety Pin Box (there are three levels available) and signing up for a course with Danielle Slaughter. Having a handful of people to whom I can reach out when it all feels like too much has been essential for me. Without the community I’ve found who can call me back to myself, I’d be lost. My advice is also that it is all worth it, even at the times when it doesn’t feel like it. Because it’s part of building a world that is more real.
Whew! Leigh Ann inspires me as a person and a mother. She is brave, highly motivated, incredibly informed and just a wonderful soul to know and be around. I learn so much from Leigh Ann around how to raise children who are engaged, social justice advocates. I learn so much from Leigh Ann around how to engage other white people in conversations about race, privilege and power, even when they are painful, messy and difficult. I learn so much from Leigh Ann through the activists and organizations she lifts up and shares via her social media platform.
Leigh Ann is such a wonderful example of authenticity. She is always growing and allows others to grow right alongside her. I appreciate Leigh Ann so much and hope you feel as inspired as I do by the words she shared above.